“Where is Maurice?” said Lady Dighton. “I expected to have found him here, as he did not come in for lunch.”
“Has he not been with you then? He left me at the door, and said he would come back this evening.”
“He has not been with me, certainly, though he promised to be. I thought you were answerable for his absence.”
Lucia did not reply. Her heart beat fast, and the last words kept ringing in her ears, “you were answerable for his absence.” Was she answerable for any doings of Maurice’s? Had that morning’s meeting, so strange and sudden for her, disturbed him too? She could only be silent and feel as if she had been accused, justly accused—but of what?
Meanwhile, her silence, which was not that of indifference, seemed to prove that the conjectures of the other two were right. They even ventured to exchange glances of intelligence, but Mrs. Costello hastened to fill up the break in the conversation.
“Is it true,” she inquired of her visitor, “that you talk of going home next week?”
“Yes; we only came for a fortnight at the longest; and as the affair which brought us over seems to be happily progressing, there is no reason for delay.”
“Oh! I am sorry,” Lucia said impulsively. “Maurice goes with you, does not he?”
“Cela depend—he is not obliged to go just then, I suppose?”
“But surely he ought. We must make him go.”
“And yet you would be sorry to lose him?”
“Of course; only—”
Another of those unexplained pauses! It was certainly a tantalizing state of affairs, though, in fact, this last one did but mean, “only he must be neglecting his affairs while he stops here.” Lucia merely broke off because she felt as if Lady Dighton might think the words an impertinence.
Soon after this they parted. Something was said about to-morrow, but they finally left all arrangements to be made when Maurice should appear, which it was supposed he would do at dinner to the Dightons, and after it to the Costellos.
Dinner had been long over in the little apartment in the Champs Elysees when Maurice arrived there. The mother and daughter were sitting together as usual, but in unusual silence—Lucia absorbed in thought, Mrs. Costello watching and wondering, but still refraining from asking questions. Maurice came in, looking pale and tired. Lucia got up, and drew a chair for him near her mother. It was done with a double object; she wanted to express her grateful affection, and she wanted to manage so as to be herself out of his sight. He neither resisted her man[oe]uvre nor even saw it, but sat down wearily and began to reply to her mother’s questions.
“I have been out of town. I had seen nothing of the country round Paris, so I thought I would make an excursion.”
“An excursion all alone?”
“Yes; I have been to St. Denis.”
“How did you go?”